Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is losing her grip.
Though her arch-rival, disgraced former prime minister Ehud Olmert, is now out of her way for good, there is another political figure threatening to put a wrench in her relevance: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Livni may be a government minister with a heavy-duty portfolio, but the only real job she cares about is the one that she envisioned would culminate in a threeway handshake on the White House lawn, and perhaps a shared Nobel Prize with her partner in fantasy, US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Indeed, it is as chief Israeli negotiator for peace talks with the Palestinians that she is best known, both at home and abroad. And it is this capacity that she has been as tireless as she is tiresome in her pursuit of a “two-state solution.”
Unfortunately for her, Abbas is not on the same page.
While his playing a game of hard to get may have earned her nearly as many frequent-flier miles as Kerry, it has not been conducive to her efforts to persuade the Israeli public that a peace treaty with the PA is possible.
Other than with Hamas, that is.
As more and more evidence emerges that Abbas is no more interested in making a deal with Israel than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, Livni and her peace-camp compatriots respond by putting the onus on Israel.
This takes two forms: one is to criticize Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for announcing that housing expansion in Jerusalem will continue, claiming that it is a provocation that causes Abbas to resort to violent rhetoric; the other is to warn that Israel cannot remain both Jewish and democratic unless a Palestinian state is established.
In other words, even if the PA is at fault – even if its aim is to destroy Israel, not to live alongside it in peace – Israel has to do anything and everything it can to delineate borders between the two peoples. This means, of course, that Israel has to evict and relocate massive numbers of Jews from their homes and put itself at existential risk, without receiving anything in return but bloodshed.
Luckily for those of us who fear such a scenario, this kind of unilateral action is not supported by a majority of the Israeli electorate. It is not even viewed favorably by the radical Arab members of the Knesset, who consider it insufficient.
As soon as it became apparent that Abbas was no longer willing to continue being courted by Israel and the United States, Kerry threw his arms up in despair, blamed Israel for the impasse and took a time-out from his incessant shuttle diplomacy.
That left Livni all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Rather than directing her outrage at Abbas for this turn of events, she made a secret pilgrimage to see him in London last week. It was a move that spurred an angry Netanyahu and other coalition members to announce that this had been Livni’s private initiative, devoid of any official backing.
Personally, I would have called it treason. But that’s just me.
Meanwhile, now that her cherished role has been relegated to the ash heap, Livni has a little more time on her hands. This is what enabled her to attend a conference in Eilat on Thursday and bash the government of which she is a prominent member.
Accusing her coalition partners of “not wanting a peace agreement and doing everything they can to torpedo diplomatic efforts,” Livni went beyond defending the tete-a-tete she held with Abbas behind their back: She rejected claims that it undermined Netanyahu’s decision to stop trying to get Abbas to come to the negotiating table, following the PA’s rapprochement with Hamas.
“We are currently in a waiting period,” she said. “We decided to cancel negotiations. But canceling negotiations does not constitute a boycott of the other side. To embargo the other side is stupid, when we are still here, and they are still here, and the conflict remains.
We must listen and be heard in order to make decisions.”
Given the fact that while Livni was in Eilat, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was appointed the head of the unity government sealed with a heavily armed terrorist organization, it seems that the only “stupid” activity worthy of note is her own.
This is not news.
What is beginning to sink in, however, is that without the “peace process,” she is utterly irrelevant.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’